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Veterans Jobs Corps Act of 2012--Motion to Proceed--Continued

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Madam President, I am here again on the Senate floor, as I have been on 14 previous occasions, to urge all of us, to urge my colleagues in the Senate and, of course, our colleagues down through the Rotunda in the House to extend the production tax credit for wind. It is also known by its shorthand as the PTC.

The reason I am here on the floor, as I have said many times before, this is about jobs. If we do not extend the production tax credit as soon as possible, we will lose good-paying American jobs. It is that simple. It is that straightforward.

I am going to keep speaking on the floor of the Senate until my colleagues decide to act, until Congress decides to take the necessary action to extend the production tax credit and protect American jobs. I want to underline that. We are going to protect American jobs and help secure our energy future in the 21st century where clean energy will be a dominant part of the mix.

It has been a treat to come to the floor to do this on one hand because I am touring the country. I focus on a State when I come to the floor. Today I want to focus on the great State of Oregon, where the wind industry is a major part of their economy, and where the PTC's positive ripple effects have been felt statewide.

In short, Oregon is a national leader in wind power. I want to share some of the statistics to make the case. According to the American Wind Energy Association, Oregon ranks sixth in power derived from wind. The wind energy industry supports roughly 3,000 jobs in Oregon. That number is poised to grow but only if we extend the production tax credit.

As we look at the map of Oregon, we can see that Oregon has installed extensive wind power projects along the Colombia River Valley in the northern part of the State. The Colombia basically delineates the State of Oregon from the State of Washington on the right here along its northern boundary. There are enough projects there producing enough power so that 700,000 homes would have electricity from those wind-power projects.

The Biglow Canyon Wind Farm is the ninth largest wind farm in the Nation. And Oregon's Second Congressional District, which is a very big district, much like the Western Slope district, Colorado's Third District, ranks fourth in the United States for installed wind capacity. Over the last decade, one county alone, a relatively small county, Sherman County, has seen over $18 million in revenues coming into that county due to the simple presence of the wind energy industry.

That money has helped Sherman County do impressive things. They have created jobs and improved their infrastructure, including building a new public school and library, supporting the Sherman County History Museum, and installing solar panels on county property. A hybrid system is in use using renewable energy with those solar panels. Those are impressive achievements.

Oregon's wind energy potential is tremendous. Currently there are plans to more than triple the amount of power that Oregon gets from wind.

That would mean a total of 9,000 megawatts of electricity. That would power over 2 million homes. Moreover, such a move, such an investment, would create thousands of jobs.

I want to go back to my main point. The wind production tax credit has been a major driver of this growth in the last decade, encouraging some wind energy producers to invest in Oregon and the rest of our country. The PTC has encouraged American innovation, and innovation is how we will grow our economy. It has supported American companies in the wind energy sector. I know the Presiding Officer knows this--and I look forward to the opportunity to talk about her State of North Carolina in the future. The PTC has enticed foreign companies to bring their operations--jobs--to the United States. Because of the PTC, these companies are building factories and offices in the United States.

I want to talk about Vestas, a Danish company that has a significant manufacturing presence in Colorado--four different plants. Last Saturday, I was at a Vestas plant in Pueblo. They support many jobs in Colorado. Vestas also has a strong presence in Oregon. In fact, their U.S. headquarters is located in one of the most livable cities in the world, that being Portland. Vestas has made a real statement about the potential here in the United States.

Again, the point I am making is it is clear to me and a large, growing, and bipartisan group of colleagues in both Houses of Congress, including both of my colleagues from Oregon, Senators Merkley and Wyden, that extending the production tax credit is the right thing to do. It is the right thing to do for our future, for our economy, and for our environment. Without the PTC--if you look at the other side of this success story--the sustained growth of the wind industry in recent years will slow--it already has--and possibly halt, and we actually may see good-paying American jobs being lost to China and other countries. Why would we want that to happen? We cannot let that happen. The continued uncertainty is not right and not fair when it comes to our U.S. wind industry and the people who work in that sector.

Last Saturday, I heard from the workers at the Vestas plant in Pueblo that they didn't know whether they were going to have jobs in a few months. The looks on their faces alone should motivate all of us to get the wind production tax credit extended. This is also an opportunity for us in Congress to show the American public that we are not as dysfunctional as a Congress as the public believes. This is a chance to support economic growth and American manufacturing right here in our country. The American people expect us to produce results, and we can only do so by working together.

I fear that the wind production tax credit has become a political football. We have a chance to show the American public, who are sick of campaign year rhetoric and politics, business as usual and partisanship, that we can rise above that. I reiterate that this is a perfect opportunity for us because this is not a partisan issue. It has widespread support from both parties across our country. I have been highlighting that fact over the last few weeks.

What can we do? We ought to understand that the production tax credit equals jobs. We ought to pass it as soon as possible. As I wind down, I note that the Senate Finance Committee is meeting right now to consider a tax extenders package. I know many colleagues on the Senate Finance Committee, including Oregon's senior Senator Ron Wyden, are working to include the PTC in the package. I add my voice to those who are already in place, urging the Finance Committee to pass an extension of the PTC today as a part of the tax extenders package, and then let's move the full Senate to the point where we can pass the PTC as soon as possible. Why? Because we are protecting American jobs and we are preparing the ground for additional job creation that is crucial, growing, and exciting in the 21st century to the wind energy industry.

I thank the Chair for what her State is doing for wind power. I look forward to talking about North Carolina.

With that, I yield the floor.


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